Page 321 – Fewest total bases, both clubs, ALCS game – 6, Detroit vs. Kansas City, Oct. 5, 1984
In 1984, the ALCS was just one brief stop on the Detroit Tigers joyride of a season, that ended up with the franchise's last World Series win. The Tigers got out to a 35-5 start and finished 104-58 and won the AL East by 15 games over Toronto.
The Kansas City Royals, on the other hand, were just happy to be in the playoffs after stumbling across the finish line with an 84-78 record (despite being outscored on the season by 13 runs), just three games ahead of the Twins and Angels. It was the Royals' fifth AL West title since 1976. The Royals had also picked up a second half win in the 1981 split season.
The Royals' chances against the Tigers in the ALCS were not considered great and in Game 1 at Royals Stadium, the Tigers won easily, 8-1 as Jack Morris beat Bud Black. In Game 2, the Royals got a good start from 20-year old rookie Bret Saberhagen, but eventually lost in 11 innings 5-3 on a 2-RBI double from John Grubb.
Leibrandt had gone 11-7 with a 3.69 ERA. Wilcox went 17-8 with a 4.00 ERA in the regular season. Neither pitcher was particularly fearsome in the strikeout department. Wilcox had 119 on the season and Leibrandt fanned just 53.
Wilcox was making his second appearance in an LCS with his first one coming way back in 1970 for Cincinnati, when he won the clinching Game 3 of the series pitching in relief of Tony Cloninger. Wilcox was just 20 years old and a September callup whom the Reds finagled on to their postseason roster.
The major league umpires went on strike during the postseason and a crew of six fill-ins worked the game. The regular umpires would return for the World Series.
Wilcox set the Royals down in order to start the game and in the bottom of the first, the Tigers got a single from Kirk Gibson (#1), but nothing else.
Steve Balboni got a walk for Kansas City in the second, but nothing else. In the bottom of the second, the Tigers got the only run they would need. DH Barbaro Garbey led off with an infield single (#2). Center fielder Chet Lemon traded places with Garbey on a force play. First baseman Darrell Evans singled (#3) to send Lemon to third. Third baseman Marty Castillo hit into a force play to score Lemon. Castillo then stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Royals catcher Don Slaught. But the inning ended, when Lou Whitaker tried to reach on a bunt, but Balboni was able to get to it and Leibrandt hustled over to cover first.
The Royals went down in order in the third and the Tigers again got a walk from Gibson, as well as another stolen base and throwing error from Slaught, but couldn't score.
George Brett finally gave the Royals a hit with a one-out single in the fourth (#4), but Wilcox struck out Jorge Orta and Darryl Motley to end the inning. Leibrandt set down the Tigers in order in the fourth. Both teams were retired in order in the fifth.
In the sixth, each pitcher walked a batter, but there were no hits or scoring and the Tigers clung to their 1-0 lead.
Wilcox set the Royals down 1-2-3 in the seventh and Leibrandt did the same to the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh.
In the eighth, the Royals showed some signs of life when Slaught had a one-out single (#5). Trying anything, Howser sent up Dane Iorg to bat for shortstop Onix Concepcion. But Iorg fouled out to third and Willie Wilson grounded out to first. Leibrandt retired the Tigers in order in the eighth.
Last call for the Royals in the ninth would not be against Wilcox, but rather Tigers relief ace Willie Hernandez.
Lynn Jones led off as a pinch hitter for Pat Sheridan and flied out to center. Brett grounded out to first. Down to his last out, Howser sent up Hal McRae to bat for Orta. The veteran DH responded with a single (#6) and U.L. Washington came in to pinch run. Motley was the last chance. And he fouled out to Castillo at third. And Detroit celebrated its first AL pennant in 16 years.
The Tigers would go on to dispatch the San Diego Padres in the World Series in five games. Wilcox would win Game 3 in his only appearance.
Despite Wilcox's great pitching in the ALCS, that 8-inning, 8-K performance was not his career best. On April 15, 1983, Wilcox came within one batter of a perfect game against the White Sox at Comiskey Park, but gave up a single to batter #27, pinch hitter Jerry Hairston.
1985 was not as kind to Wilcox as he suffered from injuries and appeared in just 8 games, going 1-3 and the Tigers released him at the end of the year. However, the Mariners decided to give him a try to see if he was better in 1986. Wilcox wasn't and he went 0-8 in 13 games and was released on June 14, 1986.
Leibrandt would pitch through 1993 and was a solid pitcher who suffered grievous misfortune in the postseason, as the 1984 start portended.
The Royals would win the AL West in 1985 and he lost his first two starts in the ALCS to Toronto, getting hit early in a 6-1 Game 1 loss and then saw Dan Quisenberry blow a save for him in a 3-1 loss in Game 4. Leibrandt did get the win in Game 7 in relief of Saberhagen.
In the World Series, Leibrandt and the Royals led the Cardinals 2-0 in the ninth, but Leibrandt gave up four runs in the ninth to lose it. Leibrandt was also the starter in the controversial Game 6, but the Royals rallied thanks to a bad call at first base and some poor play on the part of the Cardinals.
Leibrandt showed up in the postseason again in 1991 for the Braves. He got a no-decision in his one start (Game 4) in the NLCS and in the World Series, he lost Game 1 5-2, as Greg Gagne touched him for a three-run homer. Leibrandt wouldn't pitch again until Game 6 and that game ended when Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off of Leibrandt.
In 1992, Leibrandt pitched in relief in two games of the NLCS, both of them Braves losses. In the World Series, Leibrandt didn't pitch until Game 6 and he gave up the series-winning RBI double to Dave Winfield.
The Braves would trade Leibrandt to Texas in the off-season for Jose Oliva.